Chinese tennis starting to see benefits of commitment with a new star emerging - UBITENNIS
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Chinese tennis starting to see benefits of commitment with a new star emerging

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Li Na’s tennis successor is quickly appearing in the form of Wibing Yu. (Zimbio.com)

Most people who have followed tennis over the last decade are aware of Li Na. The superstar drove tennis in China to new heights when she won the 2011 French Open and then the 2014 Australian Open.

 

Since Na’s retirement in 2014, Chinese tennis has had to wait for a new superstar. Whilst heavy financial investment in sports such as football has quickly been able to attract star players to the new-found wealth of teams in Shanghai and Beijing, building a tennis legacy has taken more time.

Wibing Yu appears to be on the cusp of coming into the mainstream as China’s new hope in the men’s game. The 17 year-old came to wider attention when he won the US Open Junior Singles and Doubles titles earlier this year. Yet it was just this past week with his stunning run to the Shanghai Challenger title that adds more weight to the argument that China will soon be able to compete in a sport that has been largely dominated by players from Europe, The Americas, and Australia, and, more recently, China’s regional rivals, South Korea and Japan.

Players from China have won Challenger titles before. Indeed, Yu is not the only Chinese player to win a title at this level even this season. Ze Zhang picked up his first title at this level in San Francisco in February, whilst Di Wu, also won a title in January 2016. Yet for all their successes, (Zhang has a tour-level win over former Grand Slam semi-finalist Richard Gasquet,) they are both seen as journeymen players who have not quite been capable of carrying the weight of expectation that China is now developing. Neither have been ranked in the Top 100, though both are solidly ranked inside the Top 200.

This is where Yu comes in. At 17 and the Junior No.1, there was cautious optimism that he might make the grade. Now, with a high-level professional Challenger title under his belt, the case for his star potential is slowly but surely gaining more traction. Consider that Yu having won a junior Grand Slam and a Challenger title in the same season puts him in some exclusive and esteemed company. Amongst players in the last five years to have won a junior Grand Slam and a Challenger title are Top 10 star Alexander Zverev, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, and the USA’s Taylor Fritz. All three are Top 100 players, with Zverev and Kyrgios now inside the Top 30.

Tennis may encourage, even require countries to develop their own players to represent them, unlike sports including football where international stars can be convinced to play for Chinese clubs for financial reasons. This does not mean that China has not looked abroad for help. Di Wu is now coached by two-time ATP title winner Davide Sanguinetti, and Yu is coached by Yahum Garcia Sanchez, adding a distinctly European feel to the coaching set-up.

Boris Becker has made a significant commitment to Chinese tennis by opening an academy in Shenzhen (Zimbio.com)

China is not only committed to supplying their existing players with high-profile support. In 2016, former Wimbledon Champion and World No.1 Boris Becker opened his Becker Academy in Shenzhen, site of a Chinese professional tour event.

Becker: “Clearly there is tremendous talent and potential among young tennis players in China.

China appears to be putting significant grassroots down to build for the tennis future. Li Na’s legacy is already appearing in the form of Wibing Yu, and he is likely just the first in a number of Chinese players set to appear in the higher reaches of the game in the coming years.

Becker: “This is the biggest country in the world, but no male players in the top 100 – we’re about to change this.

Becker’s assertion looks set to quickly become a reality if Yu’s recent progress is continued.

 

ATP

Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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Madison Keys battles past Simona Halep to reach the quarter final in Cincinnati

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Madison Keys beat this year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5 to advance to the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year.

 

Madison Keys stopped a five-match losing streak against Simona Halep after a thrilling three-set match scoring her first win over the Romanian player in five years.

After beating Halep in their first head-to-head match in 2014, Keys lost five consecutive matches against her Romanian rival, including four in 2016. They met for the first time since the 2016 WTA Finals, where Halep beat Keys 6-2 6-4 in a round-robin match.

Keys never faced a break point and dropped just eight points in four service games and reeled off nine of the eleven points on Halep’s first serve to cruise through to a 6-1 win in 20 minutes.

In the second set Halep dropped her serve twice, but she converted three of the ten break points. The Romanian player held her serve at love for the first time in the match to win the second set sending the match to the third set.

Keys went up a 3-0 lead in the decider and earned four break points for 4-0. Halep converted her fifth break points at deuce and held serve at love to draw level to 3-3. Keys did not convert a match point at 5-4, but she sealed the win by breaking serve with a forehand winner in the 12th game at deuce to the delight of the home crowd.

“I think I played really smart tonight. Obviously I played a really good first set, and I don’t think she played her best tennis in the first set. I think the third set we played a pretty high level of tennis. I think it was the first time that I played a little bit more within myself and didn’t try to do too much too soon. She has been number 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before I could take a deep breath. I am really happy after losing my lead in the third set, I was able to get back. It definitely reminds me that when I am in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone”, said Keys.

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